Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian politician and tireless advocate for the rights of marginalized people.
Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz were taken into custody on Tuesday, BuzzFeed News reports. They are alleged to have shot Franco, who was elected to Rio de Janeiro’s city council in 2016 and served until her murder in 2018.
Police believe that Lessa shot Franco, while Queiroz is thought to have been the driver. The weapon, a German submachine gun, is used exclusively by Brazil’s police force. Lessa and Queiroz are both retired police officers. Franco was a vocal opponent of police brutality, BuzzFeed notes.
Lessa and Queiroz are alleged to have planned the shooting for months, tracking the city councillor’s movements and using prepaid cell phones to communicate with each other. Prosecutors believe that they were motivated to kill Franco, a Black lesbian single mother from Rio de Janeiro’s Maré favela, because they didn’t like her political stances or what she advocated for.
Franco’s murder came at a time when violence against LGBTQ+ Brazilians was high, and that climate has only continued since the election of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro in October. Since coming into office, Bolsonaro’s administration has further marginalized Brazil’s Black, indigenous, queer, and low-income communities. It has apparently gotten so bad, that openly gay congressman Jean Wyllys fled the country with no plans to return.